Ponce, Puerto Rico — As part of Ford Motor Company Fund’s broad outreach, Tuesday, the company announced the winners of the Ford College Community Challenge in Puerto Rico.
The program is designed to empower students in higher education organizations to catalyze community-building projects that address pressing local needs.
Earlier this year, students were invited to design a strategy to support ongoing efforts to rebuild Puerto Rico. The following student teams will receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 to implement their plans:
• First place – University of Puerto Rico representing Rena-Cen, an eco-tourism and environmental conservation project in Luquillo
• Second place – Humacao Community College representing Habitat
• Third place – National University College in Bayamón representing Atabey, a community project to promote an entrepreneurial eco-system in Cataño
“Puerto Rico has always been important for Ford and we stand committed to continue helping local communities with resources, services, and access to basic needs,” said Gabriel López, president and CEO of Ford Mexico, who oversees Ford’s operations in Puerto Rico. “After bringing direct relief to communities with Ruta Solidaria Ford, our social mobility centers will be part of our contribution toward a long-term recovery for the Island”.
The Fund is investing more than $1.2 million for expanded disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico and spearheading a collaboration with nonprofits to bring much-needed vehicles, supplies and services to hurricane-devastated communities on the island.
Organized as a multiyear social mobility program, the Ford-led Centro de Movilidad Social will connect children and families with a range of services – from basic needs such as food, water, clothing and transportation, to longer-term recovery assistance through educational grants and job skills development.
“This effort is at the heart of Ford Fund’s mission to provide opportunities and access for people in need,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Motor Company Fund – the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company. “Centro de Movilidad Social allows us to expand our ongoing efforts to help rebuild the lives of thousands of Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria.”
The program begins this month at Centros Sor Isolina Ferré in Ponce, where families can access food, water and other necessities, learn new skills, and engage with their community members in recovery efforts.
Ford is donating three immediate-response vehicles – two Transit Connect cargo vans and an F-150 – to travel across the island as pop-up mobile resource centers helping The Salvation Army and Red Cross Puerto Rico deliver food, water, clothing, shoes, medical assistance and educational resources to people in need. Ford’s investment includes 10,000 new books for students, plus water filters complete with guidance on how to clean water for use at home.
In 2018, Centro de Movilidad Social will expand to provide multiple temporary, community centers across the island. Additional educational and technology resources are in development to further assist with long-term and strategic recovery efforts.
Centro de Movilidad Social is modeled after Ford Resource and Engagement Centers in Detroit and South Africa, where Ford brings together nonprofit groups to provide basic needs, educational services, job training, safe driving programs and other initiatives to meet community needs.
“Working with long-standing partners like The Salvation Army, Red Cross and others, we saw an opportunity to replicate some of our existing assistance models and bring them to an area where there’s an urgent need,” said Vella. “By leveraging the strengths, experience and programs we have in place elsewhere, we hope to have a greater and more immediate impact in disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico.”
Over the past seven years, Ford has invested more than $1.5 million in communities in Puerto Rico through Operation Better World.
Centro de Movilidad Social is an extension of the disaster assistance efforts Ford has undertaken this year. Immediately following the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, Ford activated its disaster relief efforts to match contributions to the American Red Cross – up to $300,000 for each hurricane. Contributions from Ford Fund, plus Ford employee and dealership donations are now nearing $1 million.